France's latest generation coming of age

France have given up hope of finding the new Zinedine Zidane but they can now rely on another golden generation as they try to win their first major title in 12 years at Euro 2012.

Neither Yoann Gourcuff, Samir Nasri or anyone else for that matter has managed to step into Zizou's golden boots since the maestro retired after their 2006 World Cup final defeat.

France coach Laurent Blanc has, however, got the 1987 generation to perform at the highest level with Karim Benzema, Nasri, Jeremy Menez and Hatem Ben Arfa, who won the under-17 European Championship in 2004, blossoming at Euro 2012.

Benzema set up both goals in France's 2-0 win against Ukraine in Group D on Friday, one of them for Menez, while Nasri got the equaliser in the 1-1 draw against England on Monday.

None of them featured in the 2010 World Cup squad.

However, Blanc has succeeded where his predecessor Raymond Domenech failed by getting the best out of a bunch of talented but sometimes impudent players.

Ben Arfa and Benzema have been no strangers to controversy after the former clashed with Olympique Marseille manager Didier Deschamps, before joining Newcastle United, and the latter's dedication was questioned by Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho.

This week Nasri could not stop himself telling the French press to 'shut up' after scoring against England.

While Blanc has kept faith with them all, he has never turned a blind eye to their shortcomings.

IRON HAND

The former world and European champion, who seems to have an iron hand in a velvet glove, did not hesitate to question Benzema's fitness or criticise Nasri's impact with France.

Asked about Menez missing chances before opening the scoring against Ukraine on Friday, Blanc said: "Talented players can be annoying when they waste chances but they are rejoicing when they are decisive.

"With these lads you need to be strict and demanding.

"When they throw away a goal chance you just don't tell them they did well because they try. You tell them they must score."

Talent and youth alone, however, count for nothing if they are not mixed with experience, according to Blanc.

"When you have 10 caps, you're still a kid," he said, referring to Menez, whom he handed his first cap in his first match in charge, a 2-1 defeat by Norway in August, 2010.

"They gather experience playing games like yesterday surrounded by players like Alou Diarra or Franck Ribery," Blanc said on Saturday.

But with eight players in Friday's starting eleven born in 1985 or later, France have put their faith in young players.

"Lack of experience can be a disadvantage, but a carefree attitude also helps you play free," said full-back Gael Clichy.


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